New statistics from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association show clear reductions in cases of open drug use, panhandling, trespassing, and street homelessness in the downtown neighbourhoods surrounding two Emergency Winter Response homeless shelters that opened in early December.
Data collected by the DVBIA’s Downtown Ambassadors program shows that in December 2012, compared to November 2012, downtown-area open drug use dropped by 88% (from 33 to 4 recorded incidents); panhandling was reduced by 34% (from 467 to 309); trespassing cases dropped by 21% (207 to 163); and there were 49% fewer people observed sleeping on the street in the downtown core (276 to 163).
“The Emergency Winter Response shelters provide a safe place to sleep, warm meals, and access to crucial services for those who have nowhere else to go,” says Mayor Gregor Robertson. “These results make it clear that the two shelters on Seymour and Richards are in areas that need them, and demonstrate why we need more housing to meet our crucial goal of ending street homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.”
Charles Gauthier, Executive Director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, says “The shelters provide a much-needed service, particularly in the downtown core where many of our homeless citizens live. Our data shows a clear connection between the shelters opening and a drop in incidents of panhandling and drug use, among other issues. The DVBIA supports the winter shelter program because they benefit both the people who need a warm place to sleep, and the broader community at large.”
The Mayor also said that the shelters help address the root causes of street disorder, by providing people with services that meet their basic needs.
“When people are desperate for food or a place to sleep, panhandling and petty crime skyrocket. These results show that neighbourhood concerns such as open drug use and panhandling can be significantly reduced when homeless individuals have access to low-barrier shelters with food,” added the Mayor. “Permanent supportive housing is the ultimate solution but until there’s an adequate supply we need more low-barrier shelter space.”